The husband of a slain corrections officer took out a $1-million life insurance policy on the victim within months of the slaying and apparently has left Southern California, according to police and the victim's family.
No suspects have been named in the Jan. 17 slaying of Elizabeth Begaren on an Anaheim freeway onramp, but Anaheim Police Lt. John Haradon said the life insurance policy, purchased after the couple married in mid-1997, has intensified scrutiny of 36-year-old Nuzzio Begaren.
"We are narrowing the field of suspects quickly, and he is definitely in that field," Haradon said Thursday.
Begaren, who lived in Lancaster, could not be reached for comment Thursday. He vehemently criticized police in the weeks after the shooting for failing to chase down the leads he provided them, and he complained that they unfairly harassed and threatened him.
Police have expressed skepticism about portions of Begaren's account of the shooting. Begaren told police that a carload of gunmen had followed his family from a mall and robbed them of $4,800, then shot his wife when they saw her badge. The robbers spared Nuzzio Begaren and his 10-year-old daughter, Angelica.
"We have some issues we'd like to clear up, but he refuses to talk to us or let us talk to the girl," Haradon said.
Robert Wheat, Elizabeth Begaren's father, said Thursday that his son-in-law has left the Lancaster area. About a month ago, Wheat said, a detective told him Begaren was in San Francisco. But as of last week, police had lost track of him.
"They don't know where he is," Wheat said. "They can't seem to locate him."
Haradon said police know that Begaren has left Southern California, but he would not comment on whether they know where he is.
Wheat confirmed that Nuzzio Begaren took out a $1-million insurance policy on Elizabeth Begaren shortly before she was killed. He said he has been told by representatives of the life insurance company that Begaren has not been able to collect on the policy because his wife's slaying remains under investigation.
Several law enforcement sources also said this week that a scrap of paper found near the scene of the crime with scribbled numbers--apparently license plate numbers--led detectives to a car owned by a Los Angeles gang member. That car owner was in a jail cell at the time of the shooting, however, and police are unsure whether the numbers are related to the case.
Another law enforcement source said the absence of skid marks on the pavement near the shooting has raised questions about Begaren's account that the family's Kia Sportage was forced off the road by a large, dark Oldsmobile that was following them.